A friend is in labor as I write this.
She’s had a hard fight for this little boy, her fourth baby. She has preeclampsia, a condition that threatens her life (it will continue to until she delivers and maybe beyond) and makes pregnancy even more painful and difficult. She has been on bedrest for a week and a half while the doctors monitor her condition, constantly evaluating how long to risk leaving the baby inside her.
With Mother’s Day drawing near, I keep thinking of how her situation reveals the heart of motherhood. Every good mother makes this choice at some point, though not always in so obvious a way. The simple, sacred choice: My life for yours.
Every good mother makes this choice at some point … The simple, sacred choice: My life for yours.
It’s the common theme of every stage of motherhood: pregnancy, with its impact on a mother’s body; infancy, with it’s round-the-clock demands; childhood, with the constant training and the tricky balance of setting boundaries and encouraging freedom. The teenage years (which, frankly, I dread), and the patient endurance of raging hormones. And, finally, as they grow into adulthood, the heartache of letting them go.
One of the best mothers I know told me being a parent means working yourself out of a job. A child’s first steps mean they can walk away from you. As you train and teach them, they become more and more independent. Eventually, if you do your job right, your children won’t need you any more.
Just writing that makes my heart hurt a little. That last bit of sacrifice is going to be hard on me, I know: the part where our children become adults. The part where we let go. Here again is sacrifice; here again, the choice is my life for yours.
And yet, with all the sacrifice comes the greatest joy I ever have known. The best way I know to describe it is a growth of the heart. For me, it happened in an instant … I looked into my firstborn’s eyes and felt my heart double within me. With my second, it was the moment the doctor held her up so I could see the tiny, round, perfect little girl. There went my heart again.
Many mothers know exactly what I’m talking about … Nora Ephron would have been one of them. There’s a lovely speech in her film “Heartburn” where Meryl Streep’s character talks about giving birth:
“Nobody tells you. Nobody prepares you for what happens. I mean, you get born, too. A whole part of you that you didn’t know you had. I mean, suddenly you have all this love to give and … it’s almost as if you expand.”
Other moms I know have said they first felt “a bond” with their babies when they were a few months old. I think this just means those momma’s hearts didn’t grow quite so fast.
Sacrificial love must make the heart and spirit grow.
Because sacrificial love must make the heart and spirit grow. It forces a woman to be stronger, softer, deeper, than she ever has been before.
This is yet another reason abortion is such a tragedy, for many of these women are choosing the very opposite of motherhood: their life first. When a woman chooses abortion, she also chooses to close off her own heart.
AOC (Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) asks us if it’s still OK to have children, and couples who choose not to have offspring proudly brand themselves “childfree.” How much they miss. They’ll never know the pain of giving birth or the heartache of sending their child to college, true. But they’ll also never feel the thrill of all the tiny moments of joy and growth and discovery that come with parenthood. They’ll never know the incredible mystery and glory of motherhood.
This Mother’s Day, as you celebrate the mothers in your life, remember the times they have chosen “my life for yours.” And remember they wouldn’t have it any other way.